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Ultimate Million Dollar Highway Road Trip Guide: Durango to Ouray, Colorado

The Million Dollar highway road trip, Durango to Ouray
Known as one of the most stunning drives on the planet, the Million Dollar Highway is a road trip everyone must experience. This ultimate guide will tell you everything you need to know about driving from Durango to Ouray

Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway is often considered one of the greatest drives in the world and a ride everyone should experience before they die. It does indeed provide some of the best views imaginable but there’s so much more to the San Juans than this scenic drive.

From Durango to Silverton and Ouray, there are so many things to do that will take your breath away like hiking, biking, and off-roading. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about traveling on the Million Dollar Highway and all the great things to do along the way

Can I drive my RV, trailer or fifth wheel on the Million Dollar Highway?

Yes absolutely, especially in the summer. It can be a little stressful for new rv, fifth-wheel, or trailer drivers. If you have experience driving in and over mountains you will be fine. Always check your brakes and when in doubt pull over and take a breather or let others go by.

What kind of activities are available along the Million Dollar Highway?

Hiking, rock climbing, and MTB are all over. Check-in with your favorite app or stop by one of the local sporting goods stores to get more information. Every small town has its own unique history and tourist attractions. We rented a jeep and went exploring out of Ouray. Or you can rent a Razor out of Silverton.

Are the campgrounds big rig friendly?

Each town has big rig-friendly options. Check your Allstays app for specifics

Where is the Million Dollar Highway

Castle Rock Hike on the Million Dollar highway, fall colors
The gorgeous Million Dollar Highway weaves its way through the San Juan range from Durango to Silverton, Ouray, and Ridgeway

The Million Dollar Highway is a scenic section of the US-550 highway which runs north to south. The scenic section that we refer to as the Million Dollar Highway is the 25-mile section between Ouray and Silverton, then from Silverton to Durango the scenic road technically becomes the San Juan Skyway.

The name changes are a bit silly though because honestly, the entire drive from Ouray to Durango is unbelievably beautiful! For the sake of this blog, we’re covering all the top sights and activities on the Million Dollar Highway along with the San Juan Skyway for an epic road trip.

Why is it Called the Million Dollar Highway?

So why is it called the Million Dollar Highway? Truth is, nobody knows. Ooooh spooky, right?

For real though, some say that the gravel they used to pave the road contained gold and was worth millions. Of course it could also be that the road cost that much to make, that the road weaved through a large gold mining region, or my favorite, that the views from the highway are worth millions.

Locals even joke that they call it the Million Dollar Highway because you couldn’t pay them a million dollars to drive that road in the wintertime.

Traveling on the Million Dollar Highway

The Million Dollar Highway has a reputation for being a wildly dangerous drive with sheer drops and no guardrails.

First, let me reassure you that when driven under normal, sunny circumstances in a standard vehicle, it’s not dangerous.

There are indeed a few sections without guardrails and sheer drops and if you have a fear of heights or you’re not used to driving in the mountains, it can be scary. Driving this highway, however, is no more dangerous than driving on a busy freeway.

Birds eye view of driving the Million Dollar Highway
Driving the Million Dollar Highway is for the most part, easy, relaxing, and simply spectacular

I will add that it can be a bit unnerving to drive the Million Dollar Highway in an RV or when towing however it is still doable.

There is really only one part of this highway that is abnormally “dangerous” and it’s the section just 10 minutes before reaching Ouray when headed northbound.

As you can see in the photo shown below, it’s a narrow two-lane road but this is the part where there is no guardrail and the edge is sheer. Fortunately, on the downhill, you won’t be on the exposed side of the highway, it’s only on the way up that nervous drivers will feel a bit white-knuckled. If you do find yourself driving back on the uphill side of the road, drive early in the morning or close to sunset that way there’s less traffic and you can hug the center line more.

Driving the Million Dollar Highway
An exposed highway carved into the rocky gorge just south of Ouray

The good news is, if you combine this with the San Juan Skyway and make your road trip a loop, then you don’t have to worry about driving on the “exposed side.”

Overall, don’t let fear hold you back from experiencing this beautiful drive. When in doubt, take it slow.

The drive leading up to Red Mountain Pass is quite moderate and typical of Colorado roads so if just that section unnerves you, I wouldn’t recommend going on to Ouray.

That being said, it is dangerous to drive this in icy/winter conditions. Be sure to check up on road conditions before you head out on the scenic highway.

Map of the Million Dollar Highway Road Trip

With all the great stops along the Million Dollar Highway, I’ve created a custom map for you to save and view at any time on your Google Maps account.

This map includes all the top activities from hiking to climbing, biking, camping, and even just scenic stops and eateries that I later recommend in this blog.

Quick tip: If you don’t want to see certain categories on the map (example: climbing) all you have to do is click on the checkbox and all climbing spots will be hidden.

Million Dollar Highway Road Trip


Durango, often considered one of America’s best outdoor towns, is the most popular destination on the Million Dollar Highway partially due its famous Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. This makes it a common place for travelers to stay for a few days.

Whether you plan on slowly making your way up the Million Dollar Highway, spending a day in each town, or exploring the scenic drive in one day, you have to spend at least 1 day enjoying the historic town of Durango.

Durango’s unique geographic location, where the desert meets the mountains, makes it a really versatile jumping-off point.

Within 15 minutes of downtown, you can explore dozens of trails in the dry mountains nearby or you can head north on the Million Dollar Highway and be in jagged, alpine-esque peaks.

Centennial Nature Trail AKA Sky Steps in Durango, Colorado
This view from the summit of the Centennial Nature Trail AKA Sky Steps, is a view that must be earned

Don’t miss the beautiful bike path that runs along the Animas River, stroll through historic Main Street and grab a bite to eat, and if you’re looking for a challenge, take on the Centennial Nature Trail, AKA the Sky Steps which is a Stairmaster that brings you to an incredible view of Durango.

Durango is also a well-known climbing destination and there are crags of all sorts here varying from the trad climbing hotspot of East Animas, the sport haven of Lemon Reservoir, or the bouldering area of Sailing Hawks.

Of course, if you make a trip to Durango, you can’t miss the famous Narrow Gauge Railroad scenic train ride to Silverton. If you’re a hardcore adventurer, you can hop on the historic train and have them drop you off to go on a backcountry hike that’s inaccessible to cars (don’t worry, they’ll pick you up at the end as well).

Be sure to check out our blog on 30 Insanely Epic Things to do in Durango for all the details on visiting Durango.

Durango to Silverton

As you head north for Durango it gets exponentially more beautiful. The mountains slowly get taller and the aspens get nearer as the road gets windier.

Most easily distinguished as the location of Purgatory Ski Resort and the suburb of Hermosa, this region is home to Durango’s best adventures. Here there is every outdoor activity imaginable.

Climbing Fume Wall near Hermosa, Colorado

You can mountain bike up the Jones/Dutch Creek loop, hike the Purgatory Trail, backpack to Chicago Basin, camp, fish, or hike on Haviland Lake, climb easy single pitch at Fume Wall, hike up to Castle Rock, or even tackle the multi-pitch routes that ascend the face.

Here there’s also the ca-n’t-miss restaurant James Harvest Ranch Grill, which is home to some of the best craft burgers we’ve ever tasted and is best enjoyed after a long day outdoors. Or, head to Trimble Hot Springs if you’re feeling down for some relaxation.

Just past Purgatory, there is another big adventure hub, Engineer Mountain. Engineer Mountain is one of Durango’s most stunning and strenuous day hikes, has multiple ascent options, and it can also be mountain biked on black diamond trails from point to point (experts only.)

After you pass Engineer Mountain you’ll reach the scenic viewpoint of Coal Bank Pass at 10,610 feet elevation, where you should stop and take it in before weaving your way along one of the prettiest sections of the Million Dollar Highway.

Next, you’ll come to Big and Little Molas Lake which are incredible places to hike and camp.

Finally, the Million Dollar Highway will descend from the ridge line into Silverton Valley.


Located at a high elevation of 9310 feet, Silverton was a full-scale mining town in the late 1800s and it shows to this day. While its mills and mining are no longer under operation, the town has kept its historic feel intact and it feels as if you’ve gone back in time.

Old-fashioned buildings line the street–err, well it’s just a dirt road. Silverton is about as small as a town can get without being a ghost town and if it weren’t for the major attraction, the Narrow Gauge Railroad, Silverton would be left for only the most hardcore outdoorsmen. However, what’s coolest about Silverton isn’t the vintage town feel, it’s the explorations that lie beyond.

Silverton Colorado downtown

The tiny mountain town has grown to become a major off-roading hub and is the start of more than 100 miles of off roading trails and 40 different routes.

Some of the most popular and iconic rides to be enjoyed from Silverton are the Alpine Loop, Hurricane Pass California Pass, Engineer Pass, Black Bear Pass, Imogene Pass, and more!

Either bring your own 4X4 vehicle or rent a razor from Silverton Rock Pirates.

Silverton Rock Pirates doesn’t just offer off-road vehicle rentals, they make the entire experience pure fun!

The customer service is amazing, the entire setup process is super easy, and even if you have no off-roading experience their GPS and spot tracker beacons will make you feel safe out in the wilderness. From there, get ready for the time of your life!

Off-roading unveils breathtaking views, an experience usually reserved for seasoned hikers, making it truly remarkable wherever you venture.

In addition to all the epic off-roading, Silverton has hiking, biking, fishing, and climbing galore.

Silverton from above
When you Silverton, Colorado from above, it’s easy to see why it’s quite the adventure hub

There’s a pump track and a small trail ride on the east side of town and though hiking is possible, it’s best to be ready for a multi-day hike. Many of Silverton’s top trails go far into the Weminuche Wilderness Area and must be backpacked. If you like day hikes, explore other areas instead.

There are also great climbing areas in Silverton including some great sport multi-pitches in Eureka like Hardrock Miner (a 5 pitch 5.7) or Five Card Draw (5.9). Stripe Wall is a popular moderate single-pitch sport crag and the more experienced climbers will want to head to Master’s Wall in Cunningham Gulch where you’ll find quality routes in the 5.11-5.13 range.

Many areas in Silverton are great ice climbing spots in the wintertime though if ice climbing is what you love, you ought to head to Ouray.

Silverton to Ouray

Welcome to my favorite section of the Million Dollar Highway. Unlike the forested, drier mountains near Durango, when you leave Silverton you enter an upper plateau with more peaks and meadows.

First things first, right as you leave Silverton, a brief 5-minute drive will bring you to the junction for South Mineral campground, which lies down a 5-mile dirt road. Don’t worry, the road is smooth and any size RV can make it to the campground. Along the way, you’ll pass 3 great BLM campgrounds (which means it’s free to camp there): Kendall Campground, Golden Horn Campground, and Anvil Campground.

South Mineral Road, Million dollar Highway Colorado
South Mineral Road is accessible by all vehicles, holds many campgrounds, and will take you to the Ice Lakes trailhead.

South Mineral Campground is a beautiful national forest campground to stay at and more importantly, it’s the trailhead to one of Colorado’s best day hikes, Ice Lakes. For details on how to hike to Ice Lakes click here (coming soon).

After the detour, head back north on the Million Dollar Highway and get ready to be blown away by Red Mountain Pass. On the drive up to Red Mountain Pass, you’ll pass a junction for the famous 4×4 routes, Ophir Pass and then Black Bear Pass, on your left. You’ll also pass the trailhead for Columbine Lake which is a top hike for alpine lake lovers.

When descending Red Mountain Pass, it’s not hard to see where the pass gets its name.

You’ll be greeted with awesome views of the valley ahead of you, old mining ruins, and gorgeous red mountainsides, which contrast beautifully against the aspen trees when fall comes around.

Speaking of fall, this is a prime spot on the drive for fall colors.

Red Mountain Pass, Million Dollar Highway scenic drive Colorado
The stark contrast of colors on the mineral-rich mountainsides makes Red Mountain Pass one of the best spots on the Million Dollar Highway

The road finally gets narrow and windy with lots of hairpin switchbacks so don’t take your eyes off the road for too long. Because of this, be sure you make time to stop and take it in every so often.

Tip: there are some small pullouts (only suitable for cars, not RVs) when you begin your descent that makes for great photo ops (though there aren’t exactly good places for everyone to get out and stretch their legs).

Idarado Mine, scenic stoops Million Dollar Highway, colorado
While mines and ghost towns are commonly found in this area of Colorado, Idarado Mine is easily accessible and is beautifully nestled between colorful mountains

Along the way, stop to explore Idarado Mine and its quaint cottages and Crystal Lake which is probably the prettiest roadside lake I’ve ever seen.

Crystal Lake, scenic stops Million Dollar Highway, colorado
Crystal Lake has to be the most beautiful roadside lake I’ve ever seen

The final stretch in Ouray’s highway presents an unnerving side with sheer drop-offs (take caution). Skip the overlooks; instead, opt for a recommended Ouray hike for stunning views.


Welcome to the Switzerland of America…Okay, I’m going to be honest, I love Ouray, I do, but it’s no Switzerland, not even close.

Ouray, colorado located along the Million Dollar Highway
Ouray, Colorado, a mountain town located between rocky cliffs, valleys, and mountains

Ouray, a scenic mountain town, boasts stunning rock faces and valleys, diverging from Colorado’s typical lushness. Despite its arid ecosystem and less towering peaks, it’s a captivating spot along the Million Dollar Highway with diverse activities.

Ouray is best known for 3 things.

First is the hot springs and no trip here is complete without visiting Ouray Hot Springs pool once.

Ouray hot springs, Colorado, things to do
Scenic Ouray Hot Springs nestled between rocky mountains

Second is the Uncompahgre Gorge AKA the Ice Park. This is one of the most renowned ice climbing destinations in the world due its accessibility and hundreds of routes. It’s a great destination for all levels of climbers and if you’ve never ice climbed, there are great guiding services in town that can get you started.

Third is, once again, off-roading. Off-roading is equally as spectacular in Ouray but with a few different options. Here you’re closer to the start of Engineer Pass and Imogene Pass, which are two of the gnarliest 4X4 routes in the San Juans. There’s also the easy Yankee Boy Basin route and more.

Here, there are 2 amazing hikes…The Perimeter Trail, is an easy 5-mile trail that goes along the Ridgeline around town. It’s very easy, gaining little elevation, delivers amazing views of the town and offers multiple vantage points to look at the sounding peaks.

Now if you’re like us and are looking for the most epic hike possible, you’re definitely going to want to tackle one of Colorado’s most famous 14ers, Mount Sneffels (super intimidating name, am I right?). To reach the trailhead you don’t need 4WD but it is a semi-rough dirt road (no RVs). If you have 4WD, you can cut out 3 miles of hiking. Note: The Southwest ascent is a Class 3 scramble and is for expert hikers only.

Let’s not forget about the other great things in Ouray like scrap cookies at Mouse’s, the brewery with a view, Box Canyon Falls, and all the great non-inter climbers like the Pool Wall, Waterfall Wall, and Overlook Cliff.

Ouray really has so much too explore! Be sure to check out this related blog on things to do in Ouray for all the details.

Combine with the San Juan Skyway

The San Juan Skyway is equally, if not more, beautiful than the Million Dollar Highway. The San Juan Skyway is another scenic highway that runs parallel to the Million Dollar Highway on the west side of the San Juan Range.

Dallas Divide, things to do in Telluride in October
Beautiful Dallas Divide in all its fall glory

The San Juan Skyway and the Million Dollar Highway can easily be combined to make a loop by heading left when you hit Ridgeway, passing Dallas Divide, and then continuing down Highway 145. The Skyway travels past the stunning ski town of Telluride, goes over Lizard Head Pass, and continues to Cortez where you go left again and finish your loop in Durango.

To be honest, I prefer the San Juan Skyway over the Million Dollar Highway purely because of Telluride. Telluride is condensed between massive peaks. It’s the place to be if you love mountains.

See our related blog for 7 Things to do in Telluride.

Best Time to Drive the Million Dollar Highway

Fall is by far the best season in the Colorado mountains, and arguably in every mountain range for that matter. Sure, this drive is stunning at all times of the year, but experiencing the San Juans when fall colors grace the valleys, hills, and riversides feels like something out of your wildest dreams.

Fall colors usually grace the Million Dollar Highway from the last week of September through the second week of October.

Note that this is an estimate and fall colors could leave early in the case of an early storm.

Summer is a spectacular time to visit the San Juan range as well. Wildflowers are in bloom, trails are clear of snow, and the sunny days are perfect for exploring.

Spring brings a dichotomy: trails are covered in snow until mid-June, yet it unveils breathtaking snow-capped peaks and numerous waterfalls. Prepare for challenging road conditions if planning a trip then.

Accommodation on the Million Dollar Highway

The Million Dollar Highway is a day’s drive, yet the San Juans offer diverse adventures beyond the road. Allocate time to explore towns and everything in between.

I recommend spending 1-2 nights in each city along the Million Dollar Highway including Durango, Silverton, and Ouray.

If you have more time, combine this trip with the San Juan Skyway and stay in Telluride for a few days.

Here are my top picks for stays along the Million Dollar Highway. If these don’t suit you, search more on Booking, our preferred accommodation platform.

Durango Accommodation

Staying in Durango for the trip up the Million Dollar Highway is common, though I wouldn’t fully recommend it. Durango offers better accommodation options compared to Silverton or Ouray if you prefer traditional stays.

Adventure Inn One of the highest value hotels in Durango with clean rooms, nice amenities, and a downstairs restaurant, it’s a great, moderately priced place to use as a jumping-off point. Sleeps up to 4.

Hilton DoubleTree If classic hotels are more your thing, the DoubleTree is perfect. It’s located within walking distance of downtown and the Narrow Gauge Railroad. It also has 2 restaurants and overlooks the Animas River. Sleep up to 5.

Blue Lake Ranch If you want your accommodation to feel like a destination in itself, look no further than Blue Lake Ranch. This accommodation feels like a retreat. With private rooms, a mountain view, an agar fen, and a terrace, you might never leave Durango. Best for couples. Sleeps up to 4.

La Plata View Vacation Rental This modern, spacious, and cozy cabin is located on a beautiful property with mountain views. Sleeps up to 6.

Silverton Accommodation

Silverton is by no means a luxury destination however, being in Silverton makes you feel as is if you’ve traveled back to the 1800s and it’s especially true at Teller House which is one of Silverton’s very limited hotel options.

Staying in Silverton is not much of a destination however, staying right in town is very convenient if you want to go off-roading for a full-day trip.

Teller House InnTeller House is a quaint, historic, boutique hotel but it’s also clean, comfortable, and most importantly, centrally located on Silverton’s small Main Street.

Search for other accommodation on Airbnb.

Ouray Accommodation

Ouray is an amazing town to spend time relaxing in and I recommend at least 2 nights here that way you get an entire day to experience this lively little town.

Timber Ridge Lodge For an amazing overall accommodation experience that won’t break the bank, Timber Ridge Lodge is a top pick. It’s family-friendly or suitable for couples. There’s a nice outdoor patio and indoor lounge area. Rooms sleep up to 5.

Ouray Main Street Inn For a budget-friendly option, the Main Street Inn’s quaint, upbeat accommodation is best for you. The historic hotel has a great location in downtown and a nice outdoor terrace. Rooms sleep up to 2.

Modern Village Center Condo Not the cheapest option in Ouray but probably this upscale accommodation is as luxurious as you can get in Ouray. Sleeps up to 4 people.

Modern Vacation Home Similar to the condo above, this vacation home is new and upscale. It’s a bit cheaper than the condo and you have the entire home to yourself. Sleeps 2 people.

Alpenglow Vacation Rentals Whether you’re traveling solo or with a big group, these vacation rentals are available in a variety of different sizes. They’re basic, clean, and comfortable and have rooms that fit up to 8 people.

Camping on the Million Dollar Highway

Camping is the best way to experience the Million Dollar Highway. The Million Dollar Highway is famous for it’s incredible nature so it only makes sense to spend your nights in scenic campgrounds from Durango to Ouray.

I’ll provide recommendations for top campgrounds along the highway, spanning from upscale RV parks to free BLM locations. They’re ordered from south to north within their respective categories, not ranked.

Durango to Silverton

La Plata Fairgrounds – $25 per night. Something between a dirt lot and a campground. Water and electricity. Sits on the Animas Bike Path. Best for if you need a last-minute place to sleep. It’s also conveniently close to the city of Durango. Reservable. No tents. Big rig friendly.

Junction Creek NF Campground – $25 per night. Pretty forested campground conveniently located at the trailhead to the Colorado Trail and the Log Chutes trail network, great for hiking and mountain biking. 10 minutes for Durango. Partial hookups. Pit toilets and water. Some sites are reservable.

Alpen Rose RV Park – $50 per night. About 15 minutes north of Durango. centrally located to adventures near Durango as well as the cooler adventures by Purgatory. Though it’s roadside, the RV Park is forested and moderately secluded. It has all the amenities including showers, laundry, a swimming pool, free wifi, and a general store. Full hookups. No tents. Reservable.

Lower Hermosa NF Campground – $18 per night. 20 minutes north of Durango. Another nice campground is located at the trailhead to the Jones Creek/Dutch Creek MTB loop. The area was not as pretty as it once was due to wildfire damage. No hookups or water. Pit toilets. Big rig sites but a dirt road to get there. Not reservable.

Various camping options near Durango and Silverton, ranging from $0 to $50 per night, offer diverse amenities, locations, and scenic views.

Haviland Lake NF Campground – $35 per night. Beautiful campground right on the lake with mountain views and meadows. Probably the best destination campground on the highway. Access to hiking and fishing. Partial hookups. Water and pit toilets. 35-foot max RV. Tents okay. Reservable.

Old Lime Creek Road – Free dispersed camping in the national forest. Access to black diamond MTB network on Engineer Mountain. Up to 35-foot RVs but road conditions may vary by year. No facilities.

Little Molas Lake – Free dispersed camping and a beautiful one at that. 7 miles from Silverton. Access to hiking and mountain biking. Pit toilets. Easy access (no gnarly dirt roads involved). Fits any mid-size rig and may fit large rigs if sites are available.

Molas Lake Campground – $30 per night. 6 miles from Silverton. Scenic and Colorado Trail access. No hookups but restroom facilities with showers. 30-foot max RV. Tents okay. Reservable.

Sultan Creek – Free dispersed camping. Scenic and easy access is suitable for almost any rig. Close to Silverton. No facilities.

Silverton to Ouray

Once you reach Silverton, there are 3 different RV Parks that you can opt for if you need amenities and infrastructure however, I will say that none of the RV Parks looked very appealing to me.

If you’re going to be hanging out at your campground, I’d recommend a more scenic spot outside of Silverton. If you just want a place to crash for the night, you can overnight park on the side streets on the south side of Main Street. There are also 2 great, big free BLM camping spots if you head toward Eureka for 5 minutes.

Arrastra + Maggie Gulch – Both free BLM spots are a 5-10 minute drive east of Silverton. Arrastra is best for small vehicles, preferably high clearance. Maggie is suitable for any size rig. Both scenic. Maggie Gulch has nearby pits toilets.

South Mineral Rd – 4 free dispersed campgrounds within 10 minutes of each other along South Mineral Road. Junction is 5 minutes north of Silverton. All are very scenic, some even riverfront. The dirt road is smooth. Kendall and Golden Horn are best for really big rigs and they have pit toilets. Can also pay to camp at South Mineral at the end of the road which is the start of the Ice Lakes trail.

Ironton Park – Free dispersed camping. Not the best spot but close to Ouray. Mid-sized rig friendly. No facilities.

4j + 1 +1 Campground – $40-$60 per night. Ouray lacks abundant camping spots, yet this campground and RV Park stand as a destination of its own. Within walking distance of downtown and is near all the activities in Ouray. Access to the Perimeter Trail right from your doorstep. Partial and full hookups. Water, showers, laundry. Big RVs are okay. Tents okay. Reservable.

Amphitheater NF Campground – $13 per night. If you want to save money and prefer solitude instead of proximity to town, stay here. Access to the Perimeter Trail. No hookups. Water and pit toilets. 35 foot max RV. Tents okay. Reservable.

Hope this helped you with everything you need to know to drive the Million Dollar Highway! If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below!

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Sunday 31st of December 2023

Thanks for all the info on Million Dollar Highway. Can you please clarify. Which direction has the least outside edge driving? North to South or driving South to North? Also is there a preferred direction for views? Thanks

Robyn Robledo

Tuesday 2nd of January 2024

Driving south to north from Durango to Ouray has less exposure. I think this direction is also better for views but the views are pretty amazing either way.


Saturday 6th of November 2021

Simply stunning

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